Curtis Penrod and Dr. Donald Johnston were named the 2015 recipients of Northwestern State University’s Faculty Excellence in Academic Advising Awards. The award, presented by the university’s Academic Advising Services office, recognizes faculty for their mentorship and commitment to student success. Criteria include knowledge, helpfulness and accessibility.
Penrod is coordinator of the Computer Information Systems program in the College of Business and Technology and an assistant professor.
“I try to be as responsive and communicative to incoming and current students as possible,” Penrod said. “I try to let all the CIS students know what is happening at the university, important resources they can use and opportunities they can pursue. By just trying to respond to students in a timely manner and truly solving their questions, I believe you are a more effective advisor.
“It’s rewarding when I hear back from students that what we are doing matters,” Penrod said. “Just in the past week, I’ve heard from incoming students how much better their experience at NSU has been than elsewhere. I’ve even heard from a student leaving the program thanking the University for helping her where we could even if she wasn’t finishing. Then, seeing seniors come back from internships this summer and having job offers just makes you feel like you are doing a good job. Seeing your work make a difference just makes you feel good.
Johnston is an assistant professor of nursing in the College of Nursing and School of Allied Health. His advising philosophy is to be available, honest and encouraging.
“I always acknowledge student emails. Technology brings emails to my phone and a simple reply shows the students I am available,” Johnston said. “I have no problem telling a student I do not know the answer. I believe it shows that I am honest and willing to learn things right along with them. I will always either find an answer to their question or guide them through the discovery process allowing them to find it on their own.
Academic Advising Services, formerly known as ACE, recently relocated to the first floor of the Family and Consumer Sciences building, services more than 800 students per semester, said Steve Hicks, director.
“The student experience and academic excellence are two vital framework components in our strategic planning and the academic excellence category includes quality faculty-student interactions,” Hicks said. “These interactions occur daily with academic advising. Outstanding advisors take ownership, build these relationships and have a sincere desire to see students succeed. Our two recipients exemplify these qualities.”
“Advising gives me that small chance to connect with a student to see a life changed,” Johnston said. “The challenge is connecting in that short amount of time.”
“I encourage students to do hard things,” Johnston said. “Nothing worth doing is easy. I encourage them to do things scared. Every new class should make them uncomfortable. It is called growth, and that is why you decided to go to college.”